Have you ever had a life experience that includes the good, bad and the ugly all within days, if not hours? I wasn’t going to write about Bob’s (husband) and my vacation to Barcelona, but the impact has been far greater than I could have predicted and it is also art related.
A month ago, on a sparkling sunny morning, I drove our rental car down from the Pyrynees Mountains of Spain into a western suburb of Barcelona. I parked on a main road directly in front of the Joan Miro Foundation, locked the car with our luggage and went in to experience the profound artistic life of the renowned Spanish artist Joan Miro (1893-1983).
Before entering, I confessed I knew only a cursory amount about Miro’s artistic influence. Within minutes, my mind was markedly expanded. Britannica describes Miro as: a Catalan painter who combined abstract art with Surrealist fantasy. His mature style evolved from the tension between his fanciful, poetic impulse and his vision of the harshness of modern life. He worked extensively in lithography and produced numerous murals, tapestries, and sculptures for public spaces. These sculptures below show his whimsical side. I loved wandering the exhibitions spaces and experiencing his genius and diversity.
He was a breaker of artistic rules as he constantly pushed the boundaries of painting and sculpture. In fact, he created what he called, “anti-paintings.” Below is an example. We watched a video of him painting and then burning his canvas with a torch from the back. He then painting more on the front. This quickly demonstrated how he did not treat his work as ‘precious,’ which is something so many of us do. I also saw a sense of fearlessness that I have not witnessed before, which was good for me to see.
We left the museum moved by how Miro’s art impacted the world. Because I was embarrassed that I had not studied him or his work, I was inspired and looking forward to journaling about what I had learned and reflecting on my own artistic journey through my visit with Miro.
Upon arriving back at our car, our world was rudely turned upside down and inside out. The lights for unlocking the car did not blink and I immediately knew something was wrong. Our car vent window had been smashed and all of our luggage and a computer bag were gone. It was gut wrenching. Oddly, we had read several articles about the rampant stealing and pick pockets in Barcelona and had taken several steps to protect ourselves, but this was completely unexpected. Even the Spanish were shocked to hear about the significance of this theft.
The vacation that we had been planning for months with high expectations, came to an abrupt halt. Plans of celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary further up the Spanish coast and then over into southern France to spend time with friends was over. We felt stripped and violated.
With nothing but the waist pouches and clothes on our backs, we then spent about 3.5 hours in the Barcelona Police Station. I will not bore you with the crazy details of that experience. It was 7pm on a Saturday evening when we arrived at our hotel in the heart of the tourist area. What to do next? Where do we purchase something to sleep in, a toothbrush, other clothes, prescription drugs, etc??!!
Then we had to decide if we should try to continue on our trip or not. Given several circumstances, it was best to return home. We were emotionally devastated. The next few days were spent obtaining new passports, returning a damaged car, purchasing necessary items, figuring out new airline schedules, and trying to recover from the trauma of the event. In retrospect, both of us were in a state of shock for several days.
Fortunately, I proclaimed, “I will never return to Barcelona, but I will not leave without seeing some of Antoni Gaudi’s (1852-1926) work.” Oh my! We were in for another profound eye opener. I knew that his influence was evident throughout Spain, in particular Barcelona, but I was not aware of its significance. Because of the theft, we were not able to take advantage of tickets we had purchased in before leaving the US. However, we did walk by the Casa Batllo. What a fun and funky apartment. He was a genius way ahead of his time much like Da Vinci. I encourage you to learn more about Gaudi.
We then went to his magical and magnificent La Sagrada Familia!! On another beautiful day, we approached this basilica in awe.
It encompasses an entire city block. Hence, photos do not begin to give it justice. Nearly every architectural decision Gaudi made was symbolic and mathematically calculated. The Spanish began constructing this world wonder in 1882 and intend to have it completed by 2026, which will be miraculous if they do.
Below, the stained glass windows create the gradation of green to orange via the afternoon sunlight. It was something to behold. The Sagrada Familia is a sacred place. I could feel its beauty and spirituality. We are grateful for having experienced it as words cannot describe it adequately.
We arrived home with mixed feelings. We were safe and yet we had to begin putting our lives back together again and dealing with insurance paperwork, replacing items, etc. I experienced days of depression and minor anxiety attacks as well a moments of anger. Finally, I asked a good friend to tell me to “Go and paint!” I wasn’t really motivated, but I know that painting grounds me and often takes me out of negative spaces.
Here is one of the paintings I created. I had no expectations. I just started applying layers of paint while tapping into my emotions. Given my story, what is your interpretation of it?
Painting did help get me back on track again. Processing inspiring artists such as Miro and Gaudi, while trying to navigate this trauma will take more time…..and painting. Writing this post is also cathartic. Thank you for coming along.
What do you do when life throws you a curve ball? Does creativity play a role?
How do you process seeing artwork that moves you to tears and intellectually challenges you?
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Colorfully and gratefully yours,
PS I noticed that Miro and Gaudi used color differently. It will be interesting to study this further.